Rural radio

Brief Description

Rural radio is a vital communication tool for many developing countries. Despite the technological advances in the communication field, radio is still the most pervasive, accessible, affordable, and flexible mass medium available. In rural areas, it is often the only medium that can rapidly disseminate to large and remote audiences, critical
information about markets, weather, crops and livestock production, natural resource protection. Rural Radio implies a two-way process, which calls for the active participation of the communities in the planning and production activities of the radio broadcasts. It is the expression of the community rather than a channel for the community. It promotes the exchange of views, brings people closer together, stimulates information, and enhances the value of local knowledge.

Rural radio fulfils a number of functions. It is:
􀁸 A social enquiry tool
􀁸 A means for cultural expression and entertainment, for collecting, preserving and enhancing oral and musical heritage.

􀁸 A tool for gathering information on social issues that is essential for defining, planning and implementing local development processes
􀁸 A channel for interactive communication, dialogue and debate on a wide range of development issues.
􀁸 A means for training and transfer of knowledge and technologies (e.g. radio listening groups and print media).
􀁸 An information channel on crucial topics for rural livelihoods.
􀁸 An agent of social change
􀁸 A tool for conflict management and resolution
􀁸 An alternative mass medium to overcome the shortcomings of state and commercial broadcasters
􀁸 A channel for expressing ideas and opinions
􀁸 A tool of democratization


One of the most significant contributors to the evolution of rural radio was the Radio Forum movement in Canada from the 1940s to the 1960s. Listening groups gathered
around a radio receiver at a given time to listen to a programme on specific agricultural topics. At the end of the programme, the group discussed what they had just heard and sent their comments and questions back to the radio producers. As a result of these efforts, a methodology of rural radio evolved which saw radio shifting to a more involving and participatory interactive medium.

When to use

Rural radio is distinctive from urban radio in that it is directed specifically to rural people and their information needs. Rural people’s information needs are often ignored by
national radio networks and the rural radio approach is an alternative to narrow, citycentred urban radio. In Africa, radio is one of the most widespread and popular tools of
communication. It is, therefore, a very appropriate communication technology to address food security, poverty reduction, environmental protection and a host of other areas of concern to rural populations. Rural radio often goes beyond agricultural issues to address a wide range of related social, educational, health and cultural issues. It is
excellent for motivating farmers and for drawing their attention to new agricultural production ideas and techniques. It is inexpensive, has wide coverage and is readily
available, even to very remote rural populations. Programme production is relatively simple and local stations can easily create their own content.

Today, it is widely recognized that rural radio programmes are most effective when produced with audience participation, in local languages and taking into account cultural
traditions. Community participation is a fundamental characteristic of rural radio – live public shows, village debates and participation in the actual management of the radio
station are just a few examples. This approach empowers rural people to participate in the dialogue and decision-making processes essential for them to control their own
economic, social and cultural environment and play an active part in development activities.

How to use

Tips and Lessons Learnt

Lessons learned:

  • A rural radio initiative must be based on a communication for development approach, this entails
- starting with the audience needs
- promoting the active participation of local populations and encourage partnerships
- involve local population in the actual setting up of the radio station

  • The operation of the radio must be supervised by a management committee composed of representatives from various social groupings.
  • The radio must have its own legal framework
  • The equipment choice should favour sturdy models and availability of spare parts
  • Studies of the electromagnefic field should be carried out to know the signal radius
  • Monitoring and Evaluation of the impact of radio programmes should be based on
- Mail from listeners
- Field visits
- Fact sheets - Level I - Listening and comprehension of the programme content
- Fact sheets - Level II - Contribution to the listeners’ information needs
- Fact sheets - Level III - Attitude and socio-economic changes in the community
- Qualitative techniques, such as focus groups or in-depth interviews

Examples & Stories

Who can tell me more?

  • Luca Servo (luca.servo [at]

Related Methods / Tools / Practices



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